Campus Viewer: A Case Study on Custom Development

The Challenge

UMass Lowell (UML) was looking for a campus viewer application that didn’t rely on Flash based software, as it would no longer be supported after 2019. The solution needed to support the large amount of data they wanted to share, offer some options for custom searching and module development, and be supported on mobile devices.

The Solution

GEO Jobe deployed ArcGIS Enterprise to provide a basis for data hosting and sharing, and a more streamlined data collection process. The Custom Development team then built a custom campus viewer application based on the requirements from UML to meet their end user needs.

What needs did you have that led you to deciding to rework your entire Campus Viewer?

The initial push to update the Original Campus Viewer originated from the need to move away from a Flash based software that would not be supported by the end of 2019. UMass Lowell (UML) had previously been working with a third party consultant and their software to run the Camps Viewer. 

The other part of the equation was to fully utilize UML’s existing ESRI licensing. The university recognized the potential to expand data collection, analysis, and presentation in the Campus Viewer by allowing its GIS experts to work directly with the full ESRI suite. Additionally, the university is able to move away from a third party software license fee. 

What results have you seen since implementing your new Campus Viewer?

The updated Campus Viewer has all the previous functionality as the old Campus Viewer, plus new features.  There are enhanced drawing and measuring tools, additional layers added to the viewer, and better control over Feature Service security through Portal.  Additionally, a much enhanced “search” function with the ability to search through all attributes in all layers on the Campus Viewer and export the results to an excel sheet will aid in a self-service function as well as enhance our data sharing capabilities.

How does your new Campus Viewer enhance the University of Massachusetts Lowell?

Besides the benefits listed above, we anticipate an easier process for data collection.  Previously, we were duplicating our data for use in data collection tools, collecting data, then re-integrating the data back into our geodatabases. While introducing the potential for errors, this process was also not efficient and hard to maintain.  By installing Portal for ArcGIS and having a true Enterprise GIS set up, we will enable better data integrity and a more streamlined data collection process. 

The ability for different departments to collect and maintain their own data and share it gives departments ownership of their data, and trust in that it is accurate.  It also enhances collaboration between departments and reduces duplicate data collection missions. 

How does your new Campus Viewer save you time and resources?

As mentioned above, streamlining data collection processes and enabling users to search for their own data rather than asking for it from an FIS team member and waiting for their reply are two great examples.

The new Campus Viewer is accessible via the web and on mobile, instead of only while on the University’s network.  This allows users to access the data from any location without the extra step of having to VPN into the network.

Furthermore, as mentioned above, the new Campus Viewer saves us funds in the long run as we won’t be paying an additional software license. 

Why did you choose to have a custom Campus Viewer built instead of going with an out-of-the-box solution?

We chose to go a custom route because the of the sheer volume of data we have to share, as well as some of the functionalities we were looking for which weren’t available out of the box.

The best example of this is the use of a “level picker.”  The UML Campuses are not built on flat ground and many of our buildings are interconnected. By assigning a floor number and a floor level to each building, and using the level picker, we are able to show how buildings are connected across the same elevation across every building on Campus.  For example, floor 1 in a building could connect to floor 2 in its adjacent building.  The Level Picker allows us to display this otherwise confusing data in a clear way.  It is also very helpful to be able to view how all buildings are connected for space planning and construction projects. 

The previously mentioned “search” function is another reason we went with a custom viewer.

Why did you choose GEO Jobe to build you a custom Campus Viewer?

After deciding to move away from our previous third party software, we were looking for a company that could come in and do the custom work quickly, but also be available for “help” services after the Campus Viewer was up and running.  We were up against a time limit because our old Campus Viewer would no longer be supported by the end of 2019.  GEO Jobe also came recommended from a trusted advisor and after researching options, and speaking with a GEO Jobe representative, they did indeed seem like the best fit. 

What is some of the custom functionality you got from building a custom Campus Viewer, and how has it helped you?

The Level Picker, previously described, was the most important custom feature of the Campus Viewer.  We also had some custom functionality enabled for the search bar.  Uses can type in a term and the app will search through every single layer and all of its attributes.  It will return a list of findings grouped by feature layer.  The user can then click on each entry to get more information and to zoom to the entry in the map.  The user can also export the findings to an excel table for further analysis. 

Lastly, we had some more functionality added to the draw and measure tools.  These allow the end use to draw shapes, add points or text to the map and display them in various symbologies and transparencies.  Once the user has created a shape/point, they are then able to move it around the map to test out various scenarios.  Of course, the user is also able to display areas and distances using this tool as well.

How did a custom solution enable you to have more control over your Campus Viewer?

Having an Enterprise GIS set up will allow us more control over how we share our data.  Portal will allow us to set up groups and select who has access to which layers, maps and apps.  Being familiar with ESRI products will allow our administrator better control over data, security, collection, and sharing.  Most importantly, the custom viewer furthers our mission of “user self-service” allowing them to search through available GIS data when they need it and from anywhere instead of waiting for the response from someone on the FIS team. 

Want to set-up a meeting with our team to discuss solutions for your organization? Contact us at connect@geo-jobe.com or call 1-844-GEO-JOBE to discuss how we can help!

GEO Jobe

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